Muqali (Mongolian: Мухулай; 1170–1223), also spelt Mukhali and Mukhulai, was a Mongol general ("bo'ol", "one who is bound" in service) who became a trusted and esteemed commander under Genghis Khan. The son of Gü'ün U'a, a Jalair leader who had sworn fealty to the Mongols, he became known by his epithet "Muqali", "one who dulls", earned through his committed and able service to the Great Khan and the Mongol Empire.[1]

Native name
Other name(s)Mukhali
Died1223 (aged 52–53)
AllegianceMongol Empire
Years of servicePre-1206 – 1223
Battles/warsMongol conquest of the Jin dynasty
Traditional Chinese木華黎
Simplified Chinese木华黎

During the invasion of Jin China, Muqali acted as Genghis Khan's second-in-command, was promoted to Viceroy of China,[1] and was entrusted with a great degree of autonomy once Genghis Khan departed to conquer Central Asia. Unlike many Mongol leaders who were willing to massacre to gain any advantage, Muqali usually attempted to convert foes into friends by more conciliatory means.[2]

By the time of Ogedei's reign (1229–1241), he was viewed as the best of the extraordinarily talented pool of Mongol generals.[3] Given his undefeated record despite very limited resources, he might be regarded as one of the greatest military commanders in history. He was "unquestionably one of the leading Mongol personalities and a supreme leader".[4] His wisdom in dealing with local matters has been emphasized.[4]


Muqali, third son of Gü'ün U'a, was born into the 'White' clan of the Jalair tribe, who had been the hereditary serfs of the Borjigin Mongols. Originally associated with the Jurkin branch of the Borjigin, Muqali's father and uncles pledged allegiance to Temujin (Genghis Khan's original name) when he defeated the Jurkin in 1197. Gü'ün U'a offered his son Muqali to Temujin as a personal slave (emčü bo'ol).[5] Several servants of Genghis Khan would be later appointed to prominent positions in his army, such as Jelme, who was promised as a slave to Genghis as an infant, and later rose to the position of captain of a Mingghan. During his time spent as Genghis Khan's servant, he and Genghis Khan presumably became very close.[1] This intimacy would result in him becoming one of Genghis' closest advisors.[1]

During the coronation of Genghis Khan in 1206, the latter recalled Muqali's support, and he was rewarded with the command of the third tumen and control over the eastern mingghans.[1] He played a prominent role in the following campaign against Jin,[1] including in the 1211 Battle of Yehuling, the decisive battle in the first stage of the Mongol conquest of the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in northern China.

After Genghis Khan decided to go to war with the Khwarazmian Empire, he left Muqali in control of Northern China as viceroy, and gave him the title of gui ong or kuo-wang,[6] a title not given to any other in Genghis Khan's army,[1][6][7] and the title of taishi, a Chinese title also used by the Mongols.[8] Despite Genghis Khan having most of the main Mongol forces taken away and sent to the West, Muqali was able to subdue most of northern China with his small force of around 20,000 Mongols,[8] although some historians give figures of between 40,000 and 70,000[9] men to account for his foreign auxiliaries.

In 1217, Muqali attacked modern-day Hebei Province, northern Shandong Province, and northern Shaanxi Province,[9] controlled by the Jin dynasty. This was an important agricultural area, which Muqali had largely subdued by 1219. In 1220, Muqali turned his attention to the rest of Shandong Province, conquering part of it;[10] four towns were captured, but the hard-pressed Jin forces managed to hold on elsewhere in the province. After suffering a number of devastating defeats by Muqali in the field, the Jin learned that they could only hope to resist him by holding their cities and outlasting Muqali's staying power.[citation needed]

Final campaign and deathEdit

Muqali's last campaign was in the 1220s. He crossed the Ordos in mid-1221, spending the rest of the year conquering major cities in northern and central Shensi.[11] He crossed the Yellow River into Shensi, first conquering, in November 1221, the strategic Chia-chou.[4] Then, in the following months, he conquered the major Jin strongholds in northern and western Shensi.[4] Crossing again the Yellow river on ice[9] from the operational area near the Lo River in the Spring of 1222,[4] he recaptured many towns in Shansi, including Hsi-chou and Tai-chou.[4] He then left Mönggü Buqa (Bukha)[11][4] in charge in Shensi and Kansu,[11] and moved with the main army to Yü-chou, from thence to Chi-chou, conquering all the Jin strongholds in the valley of the Fen River. He then took the strategic Ho-chung in the end of 1222,[4] conquering the major cities along the river.[11] However, the cities of Ching-chao and Feng-hsiang resisted.[4] As he was consolidating his position on both sides of the Yellow River, he became seriously ill and died in the Spring on 1223, at 53 years of age.[4] On his deathbed, Muqali declared with pride that he had never been defeated. By the time of Ogedei's ascension in 1229, however, the Mongol detachments in China had suffered numerous setbacks, which led to a mini-revival of Jin fortunes until Subutai and Tolui were dispatched with the main Mongol army in 1232.[citation needed]

Appearance and familyEdit

He was described by Chao Hang as a very tall man with a dark complexion and wavy whiskers, who was "generous and fond of conviviality, and amusing episodes about him have been preserved in the Sung envoy's account".[4]

His chief wife's name was Lai-am (Naiman/Buqalun). He had eight other wives, four Mongols and four Jurchen. After his death, Genghis Khan gave command to Muqali's son, Bo’ol [zh; ja], who had seven sons: Taš of Jalair [zh; ja], Süγunčaq [zh; ja], Ba’atul noyan [ja], Bai Inal, Emegen, Ebügen, and Arkis. Tas (also called Čalawun) was Muqali's favorite grandson, and the title of gui ong passed to him.[4]


He received many posthumous honours, since as early as the 1320s.[4] After his death, descendants of Mukhali served the Great Khan of the Mongols, especially those of the Toluid lineage: prominent among these were Dorjeban and Dorǰi [zh; ja]. A few of his descendants, such as Antong and Baiǰu [zh; ja], later became prominent officials in the Confucian fashion of the Yuan dynasty founded by Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan. Members of Muqali's Jalair tribe, as retainers of the Toluid Hulagu, participated in the conquest of Persia, then called Mollai, and later founded the Jalayirid Dynasty which ruled from Baghdad after the collapse of the Hulaguid Ilkhanate. Another descendant, Naγaču, survived the collapse of the Yuan and maintained his power under the Ming dynasty.[12]

Muqali is considered a superb leader, and one of the "very few men who could exert a real influence on Genghis Khan's decisions".[4] In seven years of campaigning in northern China, he had reduced the Jin dynasty's territories to only Henan Province. A statue of Muqali, together with Bo'orchu, flanks the statue of Genghis Khan in Sükhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hope, Michael (2016). Power, Politics, and Tradition in the Mongol Empire and the Īlkhānate of Iran. Oxford University Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780191081071.
  2. ^ Frank McLynn, Genghis Khan (2015), 231.
  3. ^ Christopher P. Atwood, Pu'a's Boast and Doqolqu's Death: Historiography of a Hidden Scandal in the Mongol Conquest of the Jin.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n de Rachewiltz, Igor; Wang, May (1993). In the Service of the Khan Eminent Personalities of the Early Mongol-Yüan Period (1200-1300). Harrassowitz. p. 7.
  5. ^ de Rachewiltz, I. (ed.) (1993) In the Service of the Khan, Harrassowitz Verlag, Weisbaden
  6. ^ a b Broadbridge, Anne F. (2018). Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire. Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9781108636629.
  7. ^ "Muqali - Mongolian general". Britannica. Archived from the original on 17 May 2021. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  8. ^ a b Buell, Paul D. (2016). Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire. ABC-Clio. pp. 8–9. ISBN 9781610693400.
  9. ^ a b c McLynn, Frank (2015). Genghis Khan The Man Who Conquered the World. Random House. ISBN 9781446449295.
  10. ^ John Gillingham, John Lazenby; Peter Connolly, eds. (2016). The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval Warfare. Taylor & Francis. p. 222. ISBN 9781135936747.
  11. ^ a b c d Herbert Franke; Denis C. Twitchett, eds. (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Volume 6, Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368. Cambridge University Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780521243315.
  12. ^ Louis Hambis (1954). Le chapitre CVIII du Yuan che : les fiefs attribués aux membres de la famille impériale et aux ministres de la cour mongole d'après l'histoire chinoise officielle de la dynastie mongole. Monographies du Tʿoung pao, v. 3. Tableau5,généalogie de muqali